Applying STOPP Guidelines in Primary Care Through Electronic Medical Record Decision Support: Randomized Control Trial Highlighting the Importance of Data Quality

JMIR Med Inform. 2017 Jun 15;5(2):e15. doi: 10.2196/medinform.6226.


Background: Potentially Inappropriate Prescriptions (PIPs) are a common cause of morbidity, particularly in the elderly.

Objective: We sought to understand how the Screening Tool of Older People's Prescriptions (STOPP) prescribing criteria, implemented in a routinely used primary care Electronic Medical Record (EMR), could impact PIP rates in community (non-academic) primary care practices.

Methods: We conducted a mixed-method, pragmatic, cluster, randomized control trial in research naïve primary care practices. Phase 1: In the randomized controlled trial, 40 fully automated STOPP rules were implemented as EMR alerts during a 16-week intervention period. The control group did not receive the 40 STOPP rules (but received other alerts). Participants were recruited through the OSCAR EMR user group mailing list and in person at user group meetings. Results were assessed by querying EMR data PIPs. EMR data quality probes were included. Phase 2: physicians were invited to participate in 1-hour semi-structured interviews to discuss the results.

Results: In the EMR, 40 STOPP rules were successfully implemented. Phase 1: A total of 28 physicians from 8 practices were recruited (16 in intervention and 12 in control groups). The calculated PIP rate was 2.6% (138/5308) (control) and 4.11% (768/18,668) (intervention) at baseline. No change in PIPs was observed through the intervention (P=.80). Data quality probes generally showed low use of problem list and medication list. Phase 2: A total of 5 physicians participated. All the participants felt that they were aware of the alerts but commented on workflow and presentation challenges.

Conclusions: The calculated PIP rate was markedly less than the expected rate found in literature (2.6% and 4.0% vs 20% in literature). Data quality probes highlighted issues related to completeness of data in areas of the EMR used for PIP reporting and by the decision support such as problem and medication lists. Users also highlighted areas for better integration of STOPP guidelines with prescribing workflows. Many of the STOPP criteria can be implemented in EMRs using simple logic. However, data quality in EMRs continues to be a challenge and was a limiting step in the effectiveness of the decision support in this study. This is important as decision makers continue to fund implementation and adoption of EMRs with the expectation of the use of advanced tools (such as decision support) without ongoing review of data quality and improvement.

Trial registration: NCT02130895; (Archived by WebCite at

Keywords: clinical decision support; data quality; electronic medical records; electronic prescribing; randomized control trial.

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